Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Searching for inspiration in West Bengal

I'm in Nepal now, in a few days I'll be in Bhutan, and then I'll arrive in India again on November 19, at the Phuentsholing/Jaigaon border. I've got about a month before my next planned trip, on Dec 11 to Jaipur; I want to spend some time around Delhi to meet up with some friends. Which still leaves me with a couple weeks free. Well, first I'll go to Darjeeling, because I'm almost sick of mountain resort towns but not quite yet, and I like tea.

So what to do for about a week and a half? I imagine West Bengal is full of wonders, I know it's full of delicious tea and fish, but nothing's sticking out in my mind, and Atlas Obscura, travel blogs, and even Lonely Planet shows few obvious choices. Some options I can gather:

1. chill out in the hill stations around Darjeeling for a couple weeks. Meh. As I said, I'm almost sick of mountain resort towns. (tough life, right?)
2. do a trek around Darjeeling. Looks like I could do some good trekking in 4 or 6 days. This assumes that I could find some gear; particularly shoes, a sleeping bag, and another layer.
3. go up to Sikkim. I think this is not ideal because it is colder, farther (it looks small on the map, but it's mountainous so travel is slow), and it'd require more planning. Plus that September earthquake- I guess major roads are open but I don't really know the situation.
4. motor it back to Delhi. Surprisingly, I could get an overnight train from New Jalpaiguri to Delhi, no problem. But it's not often you're in West Bengal, and I'd like to explore somewhere new.
5. go somewhere between Darjeeling and Delhi. But where? I've been to Bodh Gaya, Varanasi, and Agra, done the tourist thing there, and don't feel an urge to go back.
6. go south of Kolkata. To... a beach? I don't like beaches.
7. go some places between Darjeeling and Kolkata. But where? Santiniketan is the only cool place I know, and I hate to be a white guy going "meh", but meh.
8. head down to Kolkata (Calcutta). I've been there before and not loved it, but I had only one day and no research about the city. Looks like Couchsurfing is relatively active there. And they have the Great Banyan nearby, and something called "Science City." Yes.

Actually, maybe the best is #2 + #8. A week visiting/trekking around Darjeeling, and a weekish in Calcutta, meeting some folks and digging a little deeper into a fascinating city. Thanks for helping me decide, blog! (of course, I am open to other suggestions, if you have them.)

So, approximate dates for the rest of my India travels:
Darjeeling Nov 19-26
Kolkata Nov 26-Dec 3
Delhi Dec 3-11
Jaipur Dec 11-14
Jaipur-Bangalore Train Dec 14-16 (41 hours, indeed!)
Bangalore Dec 16-19
Coimbatore Dec 20
Kerala Dec 21-Jan 2


  1. Wow. All of these places, formerly only known from references in Indiana Jones' movies. Question: Why is West Bengal in Northeast India? My Indian friend raised his brows when I mentioned these places: be careful out there :-)

  2. Answer: because (check it out, I was so proud when I realized this) "East BENGAL" is BANGLAdesh. I guess the "culturally Bengali area" split up in... wiki wiki... well it split into a state at the time of Partition in 1947 (when India and Pakistan split into different countries as well) and gained independence in 1971. India is mostly Hindu, Bangladesh is mostly Muslim (as is Pakistan).